Mountain Haibun

…paths worn ever-steeper by joy and sorrow.

Sometimes, on the one-lane road ascending through the cordillera, the vehicle is merely inches from the edge of the ravine. We listen for the sound of gravel, expect their skittering to hit the faces of rock below, but nothing: only the sound of the wind combing through pine, the trickle of a distant waterfall. The slightest press from fingers of fog, and the bashful mimosa curls, leaf by leaf, into itself. Before the sun goes down, the driver pulls up at a lean-to and the women and girls file out, squat behind its corrugated shingle. The men stand in a row, impassive before a length of limestone. This is a bathroom stop. It is at least four more hours before the township comes into view with its rest houses, cantinas, a lake whose name in the local tongue simply means “water.” Someone startles a flock of blackbirds in the bushes; there is laughter, the smell of cold bread rolls shaken out of paper sacks. Only the tungsten yellow lights from the bus cut through the darkness and the fog, arcing with each turn.

We’ve journeyed so far, suffered so much on this road.
Only the lizard, if it fell through these oceans
of fog, might live to tell the tale.


In response to Cold mountain 37.

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